Epino Talks “Awesome Asian Bad Guys”, National Film Society, and Funding a Web Series

Patrick Epino is one half of the dynamic duo behind the National Film Society, a new media and film advocacy studio.  He and his creative partner Stephen Dypiangco founded the National Film Society to produce their own brand of off beat and unique content, while supporting new content creators.  The success of their videos caught the attention of PBS Digital Studios and a partnership followed in May 2012. 

With growing success, the two decided to work on an idea they’d had for a while; a new web series that brought back all the cool Asian action villains from the 80s and 90s.  The series, Awesome Asian Bad Guys was born.  With a killer idea and strong support, National Film Society launched a Kickstarter campaign that successfully raised over 50 thousand dollars.  Awesome Asian Bad Guys premieres March 20 in San Francisco at CAAM Fest.

Epino and Dypiangco hosted a session called “Create Your Own Media Brand Through Collaboration” at this year’s SXSW.  Epino spoke with The Script Lab before the session to give us the scoop on his new series and successfully creating digital content.

TSL:  Awesome Asian Bad Guys is complete and is premiering at CAAM Fest, can you talk about that?

Epino: We’re playing Thursday night at the Kabuki theatre and Friday night at the Oakland museum.  This is something we’ve been working on since we started our Kickstarter in October 2012.  We thought we would finish sooner, but it’s like perfect timing and just perfect to have it seen in front of an audience.  I’m really excited.  We put a lot of work into post and we think it’s just right.  We can’t wait to see what kind of reaction we get from people. 

TSL: From a successful Kickstarter campaign until now, what has been your experience in creating this web series?

Epino: Kickstarter itself is just another full time job. You have to really use your network and ask people to reach out and share.  It’s also about keeping people interested and created content to keep people aware.  That’s really important, especially now that everyone is using Kickstarter.  It was a great experience, we learned a lot from it. 

As far as the process, when we started Kickstarter, we didn’t have the script written, we just had the concept.  So it was in the development stage and it was just getting that worked out and finding everyone to get on board.  We were able to get some cool actors ahead of the campaign and a few more afterward that kept the momentum going. We shot in July, eight days back to back. Pretty intensive.    The hope is for people to enjoy this and maybe make another version.

TSL:  What tips would you give for putting together a web series?

Epino:  For any type of content it’s important to know your audience.  With Awesome Asian Bad Guys, there was an idea that Steve and I had that we really loved and was really passionate about.  We already had a pretty loyal following in the Asian American community and the web series isn’t for Asian Americans in particular, we thought it would appeal to movie buffs and movie geeks like us, people who remember these guys from action movies in the 80s and 90s.  It was the core/niche audience that rallied behind it right away. 

When it comes to actually making a web series, keep it moving and keep it going quickly; which isn’t something you really learn in film school.  Make sure that if you’re trying to be funny, it’s funny to your audience. 

TSL:  Would you do anything differently, in terms of primarily using your network before moving forward with the project?

Epino: No. I mean, if you’ve made a bunch of things already and you think it’s time to go to Kickstarter then definitely do that.  For us, we had been making online videos for just over a year.  We were comfortable with the way we promoted and shot ourselves.  We had some awareness of who we were and that helped a lot.  If we hadn’t had a body of work, it would’ve been much more difficult to raise the amount that we did. 

TSL:  Let’s talk about National Film Society.  What’s next for you guys?

Epino: We’ll continue to produce content in the awkward brainy way that we do.  Just continuing making online videos and we’ll see where these web videos take us.  When we went to the web, it wasn’t just about creating a YouTube channel; we want to create other online properties-like features.  Part of the reason Steve and I started National Film Society was to support other people and get the word out about their work.   

TSL:  National Film Society has partnered with PBS Digital.  Tell me about that partnership and what it means for content creators.

Epino:  Our relationship with PBS Digital Studios is basically we’re a part of their multi network.  They have several channels.  We joined them back in May 2012; actually they found us soon after we started our YouTube channel.  They liked us; they thought we kind of had a spark (laughs).  They are completely supportive of what we do.  They give us free range to create whatever content we want, but they give us advice on what works. 

TSL:  What are your tips on building your brand through collaboration?

Epino:  Whether starting out or established, you want to increase your audience.  A great way to do that is to work with other people.  We don’t exist in a vacuum, and what we’ve experienced through working with other people is more exposure and the reward of meeting great people. 

Another thing, it’s a lot of work.  It takes time to build those relationships and it takes a lot of effort.  You will encounter a lot of people who just aren’t interested.  You have to keep going and start with people you know.